✅ The NTSB issued a preliminary report about the Dec. 19 crash

✅ It took two hours to locate the helicopter after it crashed

✅ Most of the engine was intact but rest of the helicopter was consumed by fire


A preliminary report by the NTSB has determined that the Chopper 6 news helicopter did not have any engine problems when it crashed on Dec. 19.

The 6 ABC helicopter was returning to Philadelphia's Northeast Airport after an assignment to Galloway to take a video of Christmas light displays, its third flight of the day.

It crashed in a dense section of Wharton State Forest in Hammonton killing pilot Monroe Smith, 68, and photographer Chris Dougherty, 45.

According to the preliminary report, the station's news desk was unable to contact the helicopter around 10 p.m. via radio and telephone and notified US Helicopter, the company that leased the helicopter to 6 ABC Action News.

After trying to locate the helicopter, debris from the craft was located just after midnight, according to the report.

A witness told investigators he saw "a solid light traveling quickly at a steep angle" around the time of the crash. Another described seeing a "giant orange ball" falling into the forest.

Path and speed of Chopper 6 before crash 12/19/23
Path and speed of Chopper 6 before crash 12/19/23 (FlightAware.com)

No cause of the crash

Investigators found that a fire consumed most of the helicopter after it hit the ground and fragmented but much of the engine was recovered.  The instrument panel had separated from the airframe and was heavily damaged. The rest of the cockpit/cabin area was destroyed.

"No anomalies of the engine were discovered that would have precluded normal operation," reads the report, which did not include a possible cause of the crash.

Some trees had smooth cuts that would indicate they had been cut by the rotars of the helicopter.

The NTSB's final report could take up to 18 months to complete.

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